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Vermont flood recovery briefing focuses on debris clean up and FEMA deadlines

Closed storefronts remain on Montpelier's Main Street a month after July 2023 flooding
Pat Bradley
Closed storefronts remain on Montpelier's Main Street a month after July 2023 flooding

Vermont Governor Phil Scott’s regular briefing this week included continued concerns regarding debris pick up and increasing awareness about the state’s emergency assistance program for businesses affected by flooding.

Governor Scott began his briefing thanking those who volunteered during last weekend’s Clean Up Vermont effort, noting that over 500 people signed up and hundreds more just showed up to help. The Republican said over 100,000 pounds of debris was picked up on Saturday.

“There's still a lot of work left to do and we'll continue to need volunteers and efforts like this to get us through the next couple of months.”

Clean Up Day was patterned after the state’s annual spring Green Up Day and Scott says another flood clean up initiative will also follow a long-running statewide annual effort.

“I've seen and I already heard about the many tires amongst the debris. So Wheels for Warmth will be collecting tires on Saturday, September 16th at the Granite Museum in Barre. If you've collected tires as a result of the flood, please bring them down on the 16th and we'll dispose of them at no charge. But I want to be clear this is for flood tires only.”

As hurricane season ramps up, the governor warned that more rain could impact the state. The Atlantic hurricane season runs until November 30th. Scott emphasized that debris removal must remain a high priority.

“One of the biggest concerns when it comes to flooding happens when culverts, bridges, catch basins and other structures become obstructed with debris and are still obstructed as a result of the flooding. That's why all of us need to make cleaning debris a priority to reduce flooding impacts over the next few months.”

Vermont Department of Public Safety Commissioner Jennifer Morrison urged cities and towns to continue collecting flood debris from rights of way and document any costs for federal reimbursement.

“For over a month the state has been assisting and cleaning debris from public rights of way. To date, Vermont's debris contractor and the Agency of Transportation have picked up nearly 6000 tons, or 12 million pounds, of flood waste from public rights of way. This does not include the considerable efforts of towns and private landowners who have worked with contracted waste haulers themselves.”

At the beginning of August, the state implemented a Business Emergency Gap Assistance Program to help flooded businesses. Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development Secretary Lindsay Kurrle said while nearly 600 applications have been submitted, some businesses remain unaware of the initiative.

“We are doubling down on our efforts through our partners to spread the word about this program. Each week we're seeing news that adversely impacted businesses are coming back online and we hope that the deployment of these grants will continue to bring businesses coming online and their doors open.”

Governor Scott says he wants to make sure those who suffered damage get as much funding as possible. But deadlines to apply for FEMA assistance are approaching, including a September 12th deadline to apply for individual assistance. Vermont Chief Recovery Officer Doug Farnham says the state is requesting extensions.

“We have one request pending with FEMA. It's a petition to reconsider the incident period. That is in process. We are also submitting a request to extend the IA deadline from September 12 to October 12. Primarily because we are seeing communities still trying to work through this process. IA, Individual Assistance, is relatively new to Vermonters so we want to request that additional 30 days from FEMA.”.

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